Winter                     2015
VOL. 19                   NO. 1

 ~ beginning our 19th year of publication 

FRANCE On Your Own banner

  The Independent Traveler's Newsletter

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                             " . . . Yet  there isn't a train I wouldn't take, No matter where it's going.."
                                                                                                                          from Travel   by Edna St Vincent Millay [1892-1950]


Know the Signs:  Driving in France  

Twisted Tongues
      ~  Challenging French phrases

Ici et Là

Thello: Marseille to Milan
~   A train voyage to remember
by Anita Rieu-Sicart

Classical Music in Paris
      ~   Some High Spots & Some Highjinks
by Arthur Gillette

End of  70 kph speed limit

Buses to Compete with Trains
    ~ as France Deregulates
by Anita Rieu-Sicart

Gastronomic Burgundy . . . on a Plate
    by Sue Boxell

The 2015 Tour de France Route
      ~   Where will you stay along the way?

In the News:  Vintage Car Treasures
~   Once in a lifetime discovery in the west
            of France and the Paris auction results

This issue of our newsletter is devoted to getting around in France -
we could subtitle it, "Trains, Buses and Automobiles" with the bicycles of the
Tour de France thrown in for good measure.  We hope you enjoy it!

KNOW THE SIGNS:  Driving in France

We have been driving in France for about 25 years, bravely getting behind the wheel of a rental car that very first time, taking out our unwieldy road maps, and forging ahead - knowing little of French road signs, ronds points or such things as the rules governing the right of way.  We soon appreciated the aforementioned ronds points (known as roundabouts in the UK and traffic circles in the US and wished we had many more of them back home).

Renting a car in France is very easy thanks to the Internet.  Where we once had to call a rental agency and discuss every detail of our rental on the phone, we can now go to a wider variety of car rental web sites, compare models and prices, find the perfect pick-up and drop-off locations, book the rental and pay online with a credit card in our own currency.  A receipt with all the details is emailed to us which we take with us when we pick up the car.  Simple and easy.

Driving in France is something we've also found quite easy, despite the occasional missed turn and finding ourselves becoming expert at making U-turns.  We are fortunate to drive on the right side of the road in the US as they do in Europe, but visitors from Ireland, the UK, Australia, Japan, several southern African nations, former English colonies, etc., will find it challenging at first.  But they really shouldn't become discouraged.  Most people adapt to the change quickly.

A bit of history:   Left-hand drive has its roots in feudal times when swordsmen on horseback needed to be close to their enemies on the left and able to use their right arms to wield their swords.  Later, in 18th century France, those hauling goods in wagons drawn by teams of horses sat behind the left horse so they had their right arm free to lash the team - and so they could watch the wagon wheels when others passed them by.  Thus, they drove to the right side of the road, beginning a tradition that remains in 65% of the world to this day.  Driving on the right came about gradually in much of Europe. The Empress Elizabeth of Russia's edict in 1752 made it mandatory that all traffic should keep to the right; later in France, following the Revolution, traveling on the right was formally adopted (previously the nobility rode on the left and the peasants were off to the right) when the aristocrats attempted to blend into the crowds by moving to the right. Finally, in 1794, driving on the right became compulsory. Napoléon spread the right-hand driving system to many countries in Europe including Spain, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands and Poland, but still many countries did not comply, including Portugal.  Only after World War I mainland Europe moved to the right, leaving only the British isles, Sweden and some eastern European countries driving on the left.  In fact, some changed as late as World War II, with Sweden being the last mainland holdout when in 1955 it was decreed that they were to drive on the right.

As you adjust to driving in France, whether you are used to right-hand drive or not, it is important to familiarize yourself with the highway signs.  Many are self-explanatory and some may be the same or similar to those you will see at home.  However, there are those that could be puzzling, so we will explain their meanings in this issue of our newsletter.  Also, for those who are used to speed limits and distances in miles per hour, an easy rule of thumb for converting kilometers to miles is to know that two-thirds of a kilometer is a mile:  90 kilometers is approximately 60 miles.

                                                                                               continued on page three  
Look inside. . .  with a click  

>  to read about the new train to Milan from Marseille - a welcome addition to rail travel by Anita Rieu-Sicart.


to read Gastronomic Burgundy - on a plate and see what a visit to Burgundy offers in the way of local food specialties from Sue Boxell, a guide and expert on the region.


>  and more from Anita: good news about taking the bus in France as the government encourages competition between rail and bus travel.


> to see the route map of the 2015 Tour de France - just in case you are planning to catch a Stage or two on your upcoming visit.


>  for an update the recent discovery of 60 classic cars, carelessly stored on a farm in the southwest of France but just auctioned off in Paris for over 25 million euros!
                                  . . . and more!

Coming in our Spring issue:

The Bookshelf
    ~   PARIS REBORN - Napoléon III, Baron
          Haussmann and the Quest to Build
          a Modern City
      a book by Stephane Kirkland

Three Towns in Brittany

  A Delightful Seaside town, A Hilltop
           Medieval Gem, and a South Coast
           Fortress City

                                                                                                                                                     by Arthur Gillette

Welcome to Twisted Tongues, a French word game everyone can play.  See if you can come up with the correct translation of the phrase in question.  You may be quite surprised by how it differs from what you first thought it meant.

Answer from our Autumn issue:  "Ah, la vache!".  It doesn't mean "Oh, the cow!" but it does mean "I'll be darned!" or "Oh, shucks!"

Phrase:    "Être mal luné" =  Does it mean "to be a bad moon" ?  No. Can you guess?  

Look for the correct translation in our Spring 2015 newsletter.  Have fun!

Contact Arthur Gillette to take advantage of his amazing knowledge of Paris
by enjoying one or more of his Paris Through the Ages Strolls. 
Visit our Marketplace page for a complete list of strolls and information about Arthur.


Château de la Foltière, Brittany
For an unforgettable visit to Brittany, be sure to stay at
Château de la Foltière, and enjoy its amazing gardens:
Le Parc Floral de Haute Bretagne

Five elegant guest rooms are offered at this lovely B&B at the edge of a pond
and surrounded by 24 spectacular gardens offering plants from all the
continents of the world ensuring that something is in bloom in every season.

Click on the photo to inquire or to make your reservation.

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Recommendations are not guarantees of satisfaction and are made only
to assist travelers with suggestions and web sites that we have found very useful.